BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
Have you ever wanted to take a trip, but money, work and everyday responsibilities held you back from your dream adventure? Me too. However, you’re in luck because the rumours are true: you can actually travel on a budget and it can be cheap. More specifically, you can even take a cheap road trip. So ditch saving for months for a plane ticket and instead start to budget for your dream road trip.
Here are ways you can make a road trip cheap:
Accommodation is going to be the most expensive part of your trip. Yet, it’s also one of the easiest ways to cut down on costs because there are so many alternatives to staying in a ritzy hotel or even a cheap motel.
Sleep in your car- This may not be the most comfortable option depending on your car, but it will definitely save you money. There are tricks on how to make this a more attractive option. Bring a blow up mattress to set up in your trunk; lower your seats and bring a neck pillow and blanket; or spread out in the back seat and turn it into a makeshift bed.
Couch surf- This is a free option that will allow you to catch up with old friends and family you haven’t seen in a while, which will maybe even get you a free meal or two if you’re lucky. However, if you’re travelling somewhere without a friend’s couch to sleep on, couchsurfing is a service that allows you to stay at a local’s place for free. There are hosts all around the USA and it’s a great way to get to know the town and the local hotspots.
Airbnb- This is all the rave these days and it’s for good reason. Usually you can find cheaper alternatives to hotels and it’s a much more authentic experience than staying in a typical hotel room. You can get a single or shared room for about $30-40 per night and you usually have access to a kitchen, which means home cooked food for a few nights!
Camping- This is a good option if you’re travelling through national parks. Usually staying in the park in peak seasons can be pretty pricey and definitely full, but there are usually cheaper camping sites around the parks, which will only cost you between $10-30 per night.
Hostels- These are much more common in Europe than in Canada or the USA; however, you can still find them. They are usually a little more expensive in America, costing you about $30 per night. But, the price is worth it if you’re looking for a social setting with other travellers.
Tip: if you do find yourself needing to stay in a hotel, try out the cheaper ones or use hotel points by signing up for hotel credit cards before your road trip.
This is of course an inevitable cost of a road trip. However, there are ways to save while you’re travelling on the road.
Cheap rentals- Be smart when renting a car. Shop around and find the best prices and the best insurance policies. Some places will offer deals on accommodation with a car rental, which may be worth your time. Tip: if you have a major credit care and rent the car through your credit card, the credit card company may cover your insurance, which saves you money every day.
Car sharing- This might be the cheapest option for you depending on how far you’re going. The cost of the car includes gas and insurance, however, this would only be a good option for a road trip that’s about three days long.
Buy a cheap car- If you’re going on a long road trip it may be worth your time to buy a cheap car. Check out Craigslist to find cheap used cars. You can even resell the car at the end of your trip to make a few bucks back.
Another big cost that can be avoided is eating out. Cut out restaurants and costly meals as eating out three times per day will add up quickly.
Hit up the grocery store before your trip and pre-make snacks so you don’t feel the need to pull over every time you’re hungry.Buy a cooler before your trip so you can keep easy lunches and breakfast foods cool and easily accessible to cut back on costs.
Cook yourself if you’re travelling in a camper van with a kitchen or you’re staying in an Airbnb or couch surfing. This will not only save you money, but will also allow you to eat some healthy meals.
Go online and ask locals where the cheap spots are in town. It may take a bit of research, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Go for free- before your trip do some research. Depending on the time of the year there may be free events or festivals happening in the city you’re travelling to. You may be able to score free passes to a museum or discounted tickets to an activity.
City tourism cards- These are available in lots of cities for about $30-40, which usually includes free public transportation. They give you access to museums, festivals, attractions and restaurant discounts. Depending what you want to do in the city, it may be cheaper than buying everything individually.
Sightseeing- This is the best way to save money as it’s free and one of the reasons you’re on a road trip. Go on hikes, walk through town and go see unforgettable sights.